LIC venue focuses in on non-traditional movies

By Kevin Zimmerman

Seven months after opening, Long Island City’s Chain Theatre is getting out of the live performance business — at least for a week and a half this month.

Instead of plays on stage, audience members can catch movies on screen at the Chain NYC Film Festival 2013.

The theater, located at 21-28 45th Road, will show dozens of narrative and non-fiction features, documentaries and shorts that range in tone from the story of a Holocaust survivor to the profiling of a U2 tribute band to the Bollywood-influenced “Saint Dracula 3D.”

“I wanted to curate an event that people could come to and get something good,” Kirk Gostkowski, co-founder of the Chain’s Variations Theatre Group, said. “We’ve got from really low-budget films to some that have celebrities in them. I’m really excited about the caliber of films.”

Rather than compete with the upcoming New York International Fringe Festival, which offers 1,200 performances by 200 theater companies in 20 venues across the city, Gostkowski cooked up the film festival as a bit of counter-programming.

Gostkowski pored over a couple of hundred submissions to pick the 74 movies that make up the inaugural bill at this year’s festival. Many of the film’s creators will attend the screenings and stick around for audience Q & A sessions. Screenings will also revolve around various themes during the 12-day run.

On Aug. 10, viewers can attend “Shoah,” which includes the documentary “16 Photographs at Ohrfruf” and the short film, “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.” Matthew Nash and Michael Equi’s 2012 documentary follows Nash’s journey to discover the story behind 16 photos of his grandfather helping to liberate Ohrdruf concentration camp, near Weimar, Germany, toward the end of World War II.

Paired with it is Malcolm Clarke’s 2013 short which revolves around 109-year-old Alice Herz Sommer, the world’s oldest pianist and concentration camp survivor.

“The movie is just amazing,” Gostkowski said. “It’s about how positive she is despite everything that has happened to her.”

Gostkowski promises not every screening tackles life’s big questions. Laughter reigns during a showing of some light-hearted romps at the “Quirky Love” screenings. “NAKED — a musical short film,” follows the tale of a young woman who starts to believe her stressful life would benefit from living naked, both figuratively and literally, told through music. “Titanic Love — The Short Film,” follows a fanatic of the James Cameron film “Titanic,” who pressures her boyfriend into taking a Titanic-themed cruise that they cannot afford.

And then there’s Christopher Malinowski’s 2013 narrative feature, “Yes, Your Tide is Cold and Dark, Sir,” which Gostkowski describes as David Lynch-y.

The film centers on a middle-aged guitar instructor who, along with some of his teenaged students, disappears into the sand dunes of Delaware. Then, just as mysteriously, 10 months later, the students reappear one by one, repeating the ominous sentence that serves as the movie’s title.

“It’s exciting to watch someone give a shock to the audience,” Gostkowski said. “I respect that.”

Malinowski’s movie also helps justify Gostkowski’s desire to provide a venue for non-Hollywood films that otherwise would head straight to Netflix.

“We are at a cusp of time where you can’t see movies like this anymore in theaters,” Gostkowski said. “There is room for everything.”

If you Go

Chain NYC Film Festival

When: Tuesday, Aug. 6 through Sunday, Aug. 18

Where: Chain Theatre, 21-28 45th Road, LIC

Cost: $10/per screening

Website: chainfilmfestival.com

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